Page 144 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

Basic HTML Version

134
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
from the Party, and thus ends her brief brush with Communism.
Hal Peters, a former Protestant minister, marries Gladys. I t is
due to her influence tha t he eventually resigns from the Com­
munist Party. He then realizes that Communism is not a solution
to all economic problems, bu t is actually a straight-jacket. T hen
there is Abe and his girl Toby, who represent the growing
popularity of psychoanalysis. They give Angoff an opportunity
for caustic comment on the new religion. In Angoff’s own in i­
mitable phrase, “Most psychoanalysts are meshuggeh.”
David Polonsky, the central spectator-character, who has taught
creative writing at the Writers’ Conference in Kansas City, Mis­
souri, and elsewhere, meets Helen, an actress who plays a sig­
nificant role in his life. Sensitive and intuitive, she recognizes
in David his many latent talents. She encourages him to enter
the academic world of teaching, and to write. During “Mid-
Century” they are close friends (who will eventually m a rry ) ,
exerting strong and constructive influences on each other. David
had always been attracted to Judaism as a religion bu t more
especially as an ethic of profound and enduring values, as well
as a cosmic music tha t adds splendor to every corner of being.
He was pleased to find so much awareness and concern for
Jewish values and goals in this small Mid-Western city. This
was David’s first trip west of Boston and New York, and his
positive reactions and comments make absorbing reading.
Added to the fictional characters are several real people, notably
Walter Lippmann, George Sokolsky, Sinclair Lewis, and Dorothy
Thompson (Lois Jackson in the book ) , who began her career
in journalism as an ardent Zionist, alerting the world to the
menace of Hitler, bu t unfortunately she later degenerated into
an irrational Arab lover.
“Mid-Century” ends poignantly and dramatically with David’s
visit to his dying father. T he beauty of this personal experience
is enhanced by the au thor’s emphasis on the meaning and warmth
of the Jewish mystical attitude toward the mystery of life—in
short, the
Yidishe neshome.
There are so many quotable sec­
tions in this last chapter, bu t I select the following. T he dying
father is talking:
One thing I never could understand, no Jew can under­
stand, is how anybody can live without holidays, holidays
make life so beautiful . . . A holiday to be a holiday must